“Sometimes I fantasize about living somewhere else, but to be honest, I’m not sure that I could live anywhere except New York,” says artist Daniel Arsham.
His studio is located in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, connected to Manhattan via the Midtown Tunnel and Queensboro Bridge. Beyond the rows of brand-new luxury condominiums, you’ll find a historic industrial zone. Passing block after block of factories where big rigs fill the parking lots, you’ll eventually arrive at Daniel’s secluded studio alongside the East River.
Daniel likes to say that “even though this is a part of Queens, the skyscrapers are just across the river, so it feels like being in Manhattan.”
He grew up in Miami—or strictly speaking, “the Miami suburbs.” In his view, “the architecture there was pretty lackluster. All the houses were identical. Your typical American suburb. As soon as I could, I got myself out of there.”
At age 17, Daniel moved to New York City to study art at the renowned Cooper Union. This was in the late 1990s.
“I lived in the East Village, before the city transformed into one giant shopping mall. Back then, the neighborhood was gritty and unrefined. It wasn’t as safe, but that’s what made it edgy. That really spoke to me.”
Apart from a few years spent in his native Miami after graduating, Daniel has spent most of his adult life based out of New York. When asked “What’s your definition of a Livable City?” his answer was “a place that you can walk around.”
“In actuality, because I’m always traveling and usually spend my weekdays in the studio when I’m in here, it’s tough to find the time to walk around New York.”
Places you can walk around—as Daniel travels the world, these are the kinds of places that call out to him.
“The way I feel about a city has a lot to do with how that city is designed. New York is a place where even first-time visitors can quickly get their bearings. Paris is like this too. Then there are places like LA, where all the neighborhoods are spread apart and the traffic is non-stop. Some cities like Tokyo are big in scale, but have a lot of contrast between parts, some of which are very walkable and cozy. I could maybe see myself living in Japan for a year or so.”
While Daniel may fantasize about living in all kinds of different places, it would seem that “walkability” is not the only reason he could only ever live in New York City. As an artist, there are personal and professional reasons that make living in this city meaningful.
After a few years in Miami, I came back to New York. The economy was bad, so I had to live inside my studio, without any of the freedom I have now. That said, I think it was really important for me to push through those hard times. New York has a way of getting the most out of people and encouraging them to try as hard as possible. I’m surrounded by friends who run their own businesses or freelance in some capacity.”
Working his way up from a starving artist to a sought-after industry veteran, Daniel now lives in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, a 15 minute drive from his studio.
“I lived here for a little while as a student. In those days, it was a completely different place. It felt almost like a college campus, which didn’t really appeal to me. So when my wife said that she wanted us to live in Brooklyn, I was hesitant. But now that we’re here, I realize how much the neighborhood has changed. It’s much more comfortable now. Lots of apartments, plenty of greenspace, great dinner options within walking distance.”
When Daniel was younger, he preferred the rougher, edgier side of New York. But now that he’s older, he feels an affinity for the parts of the city “with less friction.” Having two young sons is likely a contributing factor.
In summer and on weekends, he and his family spend time on Long Island in their vacation home, which was designed by the late Norman Jaffe, whose work is said to have been greatly influenced by Japanese culture. They wound up purchasing this specific house because Jaffe is one of Daniel’s favorite architects, but the fact that it brings them close to nature and the ocean was another major draw.
“I want my sons to grow up in the city, but I also want for them to experience the ocean, the way I did when I was their age.”
Daniel added that on most days, his sons wear UNIQLO.
“They like the KAWS series from my friend Brian and the Star Wars series from NIGO. I wear a lot of the basic items myself. UNIQLO is great for all those standard wardrobe basics.”
Daniel’s Favorite NYC Spots
525 West 19th Street, New York, NY
+1 212 727 2070
OPEN 10:00-18:00 CLOSED Sunday and Monday
Contemporary art gallery with three spaces in New York, as well as locations in London, Paris, and Hong Kong, representing over sixty distinguished artists and estates.
Galerie Perrotin New York
130 Orchard St, New York, NY
+1 212 812 2902
OPEN 10:00-18:00 CLOSED Sunday and Monday
The New York branch of Paris’s Galerie Perrotin, which represents the most popular artists of the moment, like French photographer JR. Relocated to a new downtown location in 2017.
Gavin Brown’s enterprise
439 W 127th St, New York, NY
+1 212 627 5258
OPEN 12:00-18:00 CLOSED Sunday and Monday
This huge gallery is housed in a former brewery in Harlem. Shows with artists such as Alex Katz and Mark Leckey attract a trendy New York crowd.
Salt + Charcoal
171 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY
+1 718 782 2087
OPEN 12:00-16:00, 17:30-23:30 Daily
Japanese-style steak house offering gourmet dishes like dry aged beef and filet mignon topped with uni. A popular spot for artists and musicians.
217 Eldridge St, New York, NY
+1 212 203 7634
OPEN 18:00-24:00 CLOSED Sunday and Monday
Consisting of a 10-seat omakase sushi counter, which is helmed by two-Michelin starred Chef Eiji Ichimura, Uchū features traditional Japanese cuisine with an avant-garde twist.
House of Small Wonder
77 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY
OPEN Monday-Friday 9:00-18:00, Saturday and Sunday 10:00-18:00
Inspired by Japanese cafés, this cozy hole-in-the-wall spot gives locals a place to enjoy their morning coffee and serves an all-day brunch and afternoon snacks.
- Daniel Arsham／Artist
- Born in 1980 in Ohio, USA. Centering on the concept of Fictional Archaeology where everyday objects are treated like long-forgotten artifacts, his work includes a wide variety of sculpture and installation that has been exhibited at solo shows all over the world. For 2020 Spring & Summer, he collaborated with UT. His hobbies include bonsai and photography.
- 2003 Received the Gelman Trust Fellowship Award while studying at Cooper Union.
- 2005 Created stage designs for world-renowned dancer Merce Cunningham.
- 2008 Cofounded Snarkitecture with architect Alex Mustonen, as a way of exploring the space between architecture and art.
- 2013 Conceived of the concept of Fictional Archaeology during a painting trip to Easter Island while meditating over the Moai monoliths.
- 2016 Contributed work to Art Basel Miami Beach 2016, the world’s largest and most important art fair.
- 2018 Held solo show Architecture Anomalies at the Nanzuka gallery in Tokyo.
- 2020 Collaboration with UT planned for the Spring & Summer collection.
Photography by Landon Speers
Text by Yumiko Sakuma